Taking on real-world challenges

Margaret Mealy  B.A. Sociology and B.A. Music, expected May 2018:

This summer, I was able to do an internship with the non-profit organization, New Hope Oklahoma. New Hope’s primary goal is to end generational incarceration by working with and serving kids who have parents or loved ones in prison. After taking a criminology class about crime and social justice at TU, I was aware of the atrocious state of the criminal justice system and the little known fact that Oklahoma has the largest population of women in prison. Intrigued by the subject, I was really interested in working with New Hope as an intern when the opportunity arose.

Since the formation of the New Hope Oklahoma program in 1992, New Hope has been able to send their kids (around 150 this year!) to summer camp. Camp is a great opportunity for the kids, as most of them do not otherwise have the opportunity to attend summer camp or participate in other outside extracurricular activities. As an intern, I not only worked in the New Hope office to help prepare for camp, but I also attended camp with the kids and other counselors. The camp was separated into three weeks: the first week for the 12-15 year olds, and the second two weeks for the 8-11 year olds. At camp, the kids were able to participate in several different activities, including swimming (their favorite), boating, archery, and hiking. In addition to our curriculum sessions (a morning cabin lesson led by the counselors to teach the kids about empathy, building healthy relationships, and using our individual character traits to improve the world around us), we also had many volunteers come throughout the weeks to talk about bullying, lead art, teach drum-ming and fitness, and partake in various other activities with the kids.

Although I had worked with children of all ages in many different settings before, this was my first experience working with kids where the majority come from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. I walked into camp anxious, nervous, and not knowing what to expect. But each week I was filled with knowledge from interacting with the kids. It’s pretty much hard not to fall in love with the New Hope kids. Because I had a vastly different life experience from most of the kids, my favorite part about camp was being able to connect with and learn from each of them whether we were making clay pottery, catching baby lizards, playing basketball (which is not my forte at all). Seeing them learning, laughing, enjoying camp, and having fun was no doubt the most rewarding part of my whole internship experience. I am lucky and fortunate to have been able to participate in a part of the kids’ lives, and I’m glad I will be able to use what I learned from the experience in my future endeavors.